by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI
DIVING AT THE CORRIERE DELLA SERA
I was born in the Isola district, which is one of the oldest districts of Milan. In the past it was an abandoned territory named ‘Isola’ because it was surrounded by canals, which eventually got covered. My father told me that he used to bathe in Via San Marco, where today are the headquarters of the Corriere delle Sera, in Via Solferino.
NAPOLEON AND OTHERS
The Isola is quite an emblematic district because it denotes the absence of an urbanistic plan… Napoleon in the 1800’s had made a very interesting plan because it led Milan to become the new Amsterdam. The canals were supposed to arrive to Piazza Cairoli, where the Castle is where there were supposed to be customs. It would have been a city that would most likely have had a remarkable development. The problem was that Napoleon had heavily invested in the Russian campaign, and there was no more money. So rather than investing he took away works, paintings and even a little spirit out of Milan. He took away the spirit of Milan. Then slowly (the city) recovered because ours is a city accustomed to being dominated. We had everyone here: the Spanish, Austrians… And everyone left something: the Spanish left the plague, and in fact we have the Lazzaretto. The French left little, if not a few words in the dialect. And also the Germans and Austrians… Radetzky forgot his favorite cutlet here: the schnitzel. It has become the Cotoletta alla Milanese so if now you go to Brazil and ask for ‘camarao’, shrimps, they answer ‘the Milanesa’, since they are breaded. If Radetzky knew about this he would get a herpes.
NEVER BEEN RACIST
Milan didn’t have an easy and consistent integration process (with those from outside) like Turin, for example with the Fiat, but here the signs saying ‘not renting to Southerners’ never existed.
BOSCO VERTICALE? NO…
I made my own campaign, well campaign… I produced a piece of cabaret on the Bosco Verticale. It is an architecturally interesting example, but 12,500 Euros per square meter, with plants that you can’t even choose, seems a bit too much… The other day I saw the workers who clean the windows coming down with ropes. It is part of progress, however it could have probably been better integrated in the urban fabric. Near the Bosco Verticale is Piazza Gae Aulenti, but there are also the Aler buildings, the old Total buildings from the 70s, there is a bridge that many times has been declared unfit for use and then suddenly accessible: the overpass Don Eugenio Bussa.
MORALITY AND FASHION
One city can’t become the moral capital just because it is the fashion kingdom. Fashion and morality are two concepts that, in my opinion, are a bit contrasting. Milan in ’92 wasn’t actually a moral city, this is where the whole tangenti (bribes) scandal started.
THE CHINESE AND US
The London Chinatown is a flagship, it is a source of pride. Here Via Paolo Sarpi is the district where the Chinese ‘work hard all day’. But that’s not all it is, it is a culture that has established here and that is trying to integrate. It is obvious that the Italian, Lombard, restaurateur or the hairdresser when they see that the Chinese are open 24/7 they say ‘That’s not fair, that’s not good’. Not good? We have to adapt, life changes.
BYE BYE THEATRES
Milan is losing pieces of culture. The theaters have been forgotten. One became a place where you can eat, Eataly, I’m speaking of the Smeraldo, the striptease theatre of Milan, where stripping shows were still hosted. Then there was the Ciak, where among others I also made my debut, that today has become a building with many apartments. Others become garages…
OLD TIMES’ TALENTS
As comedians our talent shows were in the clubs in Milan. The Belsit, a tavern where managers came with their lovers, where executives made out with secretaries… Then there was the Corte dei Miracoli, on the waterfront of the canals, where if they didn’t like you they threw empty beer bottles at you. I luckily had another job, I did it as a hobby. It was hard for those who were supposed to make a living out of it and had to work in the small room of the Ca’ Bianca, for example, with 30 guests. It was not easy. Today the talent shows are very well organized, at the time we had to make our own talent shows and it could happen that, at the end, the owners paid us with postdated checks. Obviously, after the waiters were paid. First the waiters got paid then, from 2.30 3.00 a.m., it was our turn.
I remember the saddest ones: on March 8th. On that date the comedian has an audience made only of women who, if you were not funny or you made a sexist slip, they would whistle and throw mimosas at you. Unbearable flowers because after a while they make you develop an allergy even if you don’t suffer from it. Then I remember the gigs where out of 30 people in the audience 25 were Russian. I remember sweating to make them smile, then – at the end – one got up and said, ‘Sorry, but they do not understand…’. ‘Vadaviailcu’ (Milan’s dilact for
‘Fuck off then’)’.
I’d like this city to keep that kind of pride that in part came out with Expo.
The sense of belonging more than pride, because in Milan pride is often confused with presumption.
Sala for example could be a good profile but the problem could be that then he might have to deal with those politicians that never give up.
The left doesn’t exist anymore. The left is like the restrooms, which are down the hallway on the left…
PEOPLE FRINDLY CITY
In the next five years I would like the city to begin developing the mentality according to which everyone who comes here brings something besides their presence. So I think this city could become people friendly, although it must be a bit more women friendly because in my opinion this city must value women more.
MILAN AND CHANGES
I would like to see Milan back to peacefully adapting to changes. The metro lines of this city, for example, are good, among the best in Europe. They made the line 3 and 5, but between 3 and 5 there is 4… Then about the Lilla line, the one that was built to get to San Siro Stadium, now they say ‘Well then, the Stadium will close’.
YOU DO IT…
Milan is a city like any other, where we’re all willing to say: ‘Yes, well, good. This is right’. But what do you do? ‘No, you have to do it, it’s not that I do it, you do it’. When you tell people that we are the state they say ‘You are? Then get to it’…
THE NEW QUATAR’S ISOLA
The beautiful Isola neighborhood, completely renovated, 40 percent with the investment funds of Qatar… So if one day they bring camels, throw down the sand, we shouldn’t complain… Who has the money invests it and makes things, we must be cosmopolitan. If they invest the money they want something in return and that is integration.
YES TO THE MOSQUE
Why not? But without swallowing up other traditions.
RENZI AND HIS USELESS OPTIMISM
Renzi with his optimism, I call it useless optimism, when there are bad news he’s never here: he is always in China or elsewhere. He sends out the others… All news must be given, not just the winning kind.
The sanbabilini in the 70s had the most beautiful women. The girls with seamed stockings, those with the Hermès scarves. Coming from the underclasses I was excited about these things. Then I found out that some of those who were the historical leaders, the gurus, supported themselves by stealing car radios. One of them died as he was stealing a car radio in Como, he was shot, and then I said: ‘But where am I?’. My brother, however, was more the Autonomia Operaia type, and at home it was a mess, we both got threatened on the phone. My mother used to say, ‘Now now! Get it over with…’. We made a sort of Democrazia Cristiana at home so as not to disturb the family… It wasn’t anything political… It was a world in which we tried to belong… My luck was that my brother is a literature professor six years older than me. He pulled me out by giving me a book to read each month.
BOOKS AND THE ACCIDENT WITH THE VESPA
He gave me Vasco Pratolini, Graham Greene, Vitaliano Brancati, Hemingway to read… At the end of each month I had to make the summary of the book so ‘you stay home and you’re not out with those idiots with Vespas’… Eventually I got myself a scooter and two weeks later I crashed.
‘WHAT DID I TELL YOU?’
When I got back home with the chain in my hand, the only unscathed thing of the scooter, my father looked at me and said, ‘So?’. ‘Dad, I had an accident…’. ‘Well, what did I tell you?’. What did I tell you is a phrase that the Milanesi like to say, always. ‘Eh cosa t’avevi dit me? T’è vist che dopo succede come dico io?’. They almost enjoy guessing the negativity… just like Inter fans do.
GIARGIANA, WHO IS HE?
Giargiana is one who comes from outside the city and pretends to be integrated. And then there are others, the sgagnamanuber. In the old Milan when they didn’t give nicknames they said ‘Hey you, sgagnamanuber (handlebars biter, geek, Ed.) si fallo de menta’ that was a mint flavored pacifier for children that you could blow as a whistle.
VADAVIAELCU’! SAID MY GRANDFATHER
My grandfather, for example, to say fuck off… (You need to know that) the guy was still of that ancient elegance of the bocciofile, where people after swearing said ‘Pardon’. He used to say ‘ehi tu vadavia il passe bum di articioc’. Articioc is one of the words that Radetzky left us. Articiok, in French and German, is artichokes. ‘Go and give away the most delicious part of the artichoke’, which is the bottom, the ass. It was an elegant way to tell someone to…
MILAN FOR PITITINGA AND I
My commitment continues thanks to this substrate, earlier I was talking about Smemoranda… Fondazione Smemoranda has given me so much in these 10 years with Pititinga. We built a kindergarten, the center Smemo Educationau. A football field, the sports center Smemo Giacinto Facchetti, we named it after Facchetti. And then we built houses. The Milanesi are generous people, in this city there is a very high rate of volunteerism.
HELP THEM WHERE THEY COME FROM
I once asked a friend, an entrepreneur of the Lega: ‘Are you willing to contribute?’. He told me: ‘Look, you are a friend, but with all the problems that there are here in Italy we should help our people first’. ‘But you don’t recognize Italy, you are from Padania’. ‘No, Padania is a nation inside Italy, is a bit like San Marino…’. ‘Okay’, I said, ‘But let me tell you something. If I help them over there with the money that you give me, they won’t come here’. ‘Well, this is a good motive’, and he gave me 3,000 Euros. You always have to understand the psychology of people.
THE BRAZILIANS AND THE MILANESI
If you look at Brazil and the Brazilians, making a comparison, (you see that) they are intelligent people but – as they say – are a bit preguicoso, lazy and indolent. In their indolence, however, they survive just fine without us. And this makes us angry… When from Milan we go there we say: ‘Well, here we must do this, we must do that…’. And they say, ‘Esta bon, esta bon, todo ben’. Then we leave, come back after six months, and nothing changed: ‘But, what did you do?’. ‘Oh no choven’, it rained’. Ok, they don’t do anything when it rains… ‘Guys, in Milan it rains too. We wouldn’t have skyscrapers, houses, if we didn’t work in the rain, come on!’. Some have milanesizied, going through a bit of a shock… now they are incazzosi (Milanese for ‘nervous, irritable’ NdT). In Brazil, if you walk into a bank for a transaction you can easily have to wait three hours. And these ones now say: ‘So?! So?!’. They have become Milanesi like us. Before they sat down and watched soap operas.
I LOVE NAPOLI
I love being in Naples. I went three times… I did conventions in 2002, then Impazienti with Max Tortora, and recently – last July – I spent a month there with Rai2. Now that they made the Caracciolo promenade in the morning you can go for a run. It is clear that when you go down in the morning to run there is some strong Neapolitan and the gulls that look at you, shaking their head, saying, ‘Where the hell is this one going?’. ‘Where are you going, what are you running for?’. The Neapolitans in my opinion… (Let’s say) making a Milan-Naples comparison, what I discovered is that we are efficient and run everywhere to get things done. They are effective, they do things.
YES TO REMORSE NOT TO REGRETS
We must start getting into the perspective of living with remorse and not with regrets. Doing things. I did so many stupid things that… I agreed to do shows that were not good for me, I was in s conflict with some work issues… I worked 11 years in a bank but I knew that was not my future, I worked many years in training and consulting but I was still not happy… And now I would like to do new things. This stuff here, this restlessness, it is typical of someone who reaches a certain point and wonders… When I was younger, at 20 years old, I thought a 55 year old had to be settled, responsible. But I find myself with the head of a twelve year old, however, with a 6 year old daughter, who keeps me down to earth.
(Bertolino) is one that does a bit of everything, some theater, television… A little neither fish nor fowl. I’m the first vegan comedian: neither fish nor fowl.
I’M A BIT OF A MANIAC
I’m really getting old with regards to manias. When I see a light switch that is not positioned as the other ones I go back and put it in place because they must all be aligned. That stuff is a psychosis, is objectively one of the first forms of schizophrenia. If you know it you occasionally try to correct yourself, right? Precision, meticulousness with time make you obsessive… obsessive-compulsive.
NATIVE AND ADOPTIVE MILANESI
I can see when someone is an adoptive Milanese because they are too cheerful. The true Milanese is never really joyous, it is not in our DNA, we have that feeling of guilt if we do nothing… So if one is sitting on a bench looking (up) he or she is an adoptive one. Someone who sits on a bench usually looks at the time and says ‘Fuck, I’ve got to go’, because taking a break makes them feel guilty. And others say to him: ‘Well? You’ve been here half an hour, go to work’. ‘I am retired’. ‘And so go to work’… Because that’s the idea. The adoptive ones are recognizable also because they are still enthusiastic. They are still hopeful. The Milanesi are almost hopeless. They do things, but (thinking): ‘Sure, But you’ll see… you’ll see…’. There are those who are healthy carriers of bad luck, those who say: ‘What a beautiful day’. There are days in Milan in which you can see the Grigna mountains. There are days when the Phon blows and you say, ‘Look what a beautiful day it is! What a beautiful day in Milan’. ‘Sure, but it won’t last’.
One is the integration of the people in this city. The other dream is a decent road system. I dream of cyclists who behave well as car drivers do with them, because sometimes cyclists ride in the opposite direction, talking on their phone, you high beam them and they tell you to fuck off. And you think, ‘No, wait…’. Okay that’s right because the city should be more alive, bike paths should not end up like in Via Melchiorre Gioia, with Hungarian trucks that run you over, but what is good about bike paths is also the rider’s behavior.
MARVELS IN THE CITY
What amazes me in Milan every day is finding good people who don’t ask you for anything, or honest people, when in fact there is this strong dichotomy between the honest who is stupid and sly who is intelligent. The honest is not stupid, the honest is honest.
THE CITY TESTIMONIAL
Everyone who lives in their city must be the city’s first testimonial. If one says: ‘It is a shitty city’. So why don’t you leave? ‘I can’t, I’ve got a mortgage’. And so stay here… If you stay here, roll up your sleeves, if not… leave!
I won’t mention them in order of importance, they are different… Meeting Giacinto Facchetti and his family who live in Cassano d’Adda, I became friends with Giacinto… And even with Mariolino Corso, we still see each other. Another great encounter that marked me was the one with Gino Strada, a high-profile person, an Inter fan. He gave me a beautiful… At the time notoriety made me think for a while I could do everything. Well, he helped me because he brought me down to earth. I worked in his markets for Emergency, he gave me the incentive to start a non-profit organization.
THE POSITIVE ICE CREAM MAN
I wouldn’t know about others… One is an ice cream man from Messina who has an ice cream shop near my house, at the Isola. They did many things to him, when he arrived, to boycott him. When he put a chair outside they gave him 1000 euro fine. And he kept going on. He opened two more shops and now has three. This man keeps a smile on his face, his wife who was ill, he had many problems, however, he goes on with a smile and always puts out the scarf ‘Forza Messina’ on his ice cream shop. He hires people from all races and is always positive, when he could not sell ice cream in the winter he began to make soup. And to those who came to lunch he said: ‘When one wants to warm up and then sees an ice cream they go for it’.
MOVING TO BRAZIL
It’s important never to confuse tourism with life, when I go there and stay in Brazil for 15 days, bubbles already start to come out… Then I see how they talk or walk slowly… Living there? No, guys. The beauty of going there is taking a trip, going there, staying a while there and while here. Keeping the roots. The roots are never to be cut. And my roots are in Milan.